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Air Enema for Intussusception

How Does an Air Enema Help with Intussusception?

Air enema for intussusception: A radiology test using fluoroscopy.
  • A radiology test using fluoroscopy
  • Total exam time: 30 minutes
  • No special patient preparation required

What Is Fluoroscopy?

  • Fluoroscopy is an imaging technique that takes real time (live) moving images of a patient’s internal structures using X-rays (radiation). Similar to a video.
  • The fluoroscope is a flat table with a camera that pulls over the patient and creates a tunnel.

What Will Happen during Fluoroscopy?

  • The radiologist or technologist will move the camera up and down to see the area being examined.
  • The images will show on a screen. The room lights are dimmed to allow the images to be seen with more detail.
  • During the test, the patient may hear some noises from the machine.
  • Parents are welcome in the room, but siblings under 18 years of age cannot be in the room during imaging.
  • You are encouraged to stay with your child during the test. Children are often more cooperative and less apprehensive when a loved one is with them. It is helpful to have another caregiver watch the child's siblings so you can be with your child.
  • If you are pregnant, you may want to wait outside the room during the pictures because of the risks to your unborn baby.

What Is Intussusception?


It is a condition in which the intestine has telescoped within another segment of intestine. It is a bit like getting a sock turned inside itself.

What to Expect

  • An IV will be needed for the study. This allows for quick access should your child need fluids.
  • A consult with surgery will take place prior to starting the exam. This will review the procedure and next steps should air pressure during the enema not reduce the telescoped portion of bowel.
  • If the radiologist feels the air enema will not reduce the intussusception, they may consult with surgery about the need to send the child for an operation to manually reduce the intussusception using general anesthesia.
  • A consent form will be given, reviewed and signed prior to starting the exam.

During the Study

  • A small, soft tube is inserted into the rectum. The technologist will tape and hold this tube in place snuggly to minimize leakage of air during the procedure.
  • The radiologist will pump air into the colon through the tube to attempt to use air pressure to push the bowel back to its normal length.
  • The radiologist will continuously monitor your child’s bowel using the fluoroscope.
  • The procedure can become uncomfortable and cause some distress due to pressure in the belly. This usually stops as soon as the procedure is ended and the pressure drops.

Helpful Information

  • There may be marks on your child’s buttocks left at the end of the procedure from where we squeezed or taped them together to keep the tube in the correct place and stop air leaks.
  • Sometimes, the air enema does not reduce the telescoped portion of bowel on the first try. It is common for the radiologist to give your child a break and then try again in an hour.
  • Even if the enema works there is a chance that an intussusception can reoccur. Your child will continue to be monitored for a period of time after the procedure in the emergency department or on the inpatient floor.

What to Expect after the Test?

  • You will return to the emergency department or your child's room when all of the X-ray pictures are complete.
  • You will receive results from the physician who ordered the test.

Last Updated 07/2017

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